Campaigning to end segregation of Romani children Slovak schools

A metallic fence split the classroom in two, one half Roma, the other half "whites" © Amnesty International

Fotis Filippou, Campaigner in the EU Team and Barbora Cernusakova, Researcher in the EU Team are blogging from Bratislava, Slovakia

We have been in Bratislava, Slovakia since the beginning of the week, in preparation for the launch of the new phase in Amnesty International’s campaign to end segregation of Romani children in Slovak schools.

Thursday, 2 September, marked the beginning of the school year in Slovakia. At 11am we held a press conference in a classroom of a school in the centre of Bratislava.

A metallic fence divided the classroom into two. Signs pointed to the fact that one half was for Roma, the other was for “whites”. As the journalists sat down on either side of the fence we reminded them: “As you are separated in here now, so thousands of Romani children begin the school year sitting in separate, ethnically segregated classrooms”.

Thousands of Romani children are beginning the new school year completely separated from their non-Roma peers, either being placed in special schools and classes for pupils with “mild mental disabilities” or in Roma-only mainstream schools and classes, which offer reduced curricula and limited future opportunities.

On Wednesday, we returned to a Romani community 20km north of Bratislava, which we had visited a few times earlier this year. We met with people who have previously shared their stories with us, and asked them what their expectations are for the new school year.

We met with Jakub, a bright 16-year-old boy, who finished the special class in the local primary school a year ago. He had been transferred to special class when he was in fifth grade, after an argument with a teacher, despite being an excellent student while he was in the normal class.

Jakub always wanted to be a car mechanic; but the certificate he got from the special class does not give him this opportunity. “I’m starting at the special secondary school tomorrow, to become a builder; what else can I do?” he told us with disappointment.

Alena, a Romani mother told us: “It’s going to get worse and worse. I am thinking of putting the kids to a school in another town. My girl is in a Roma-only class. What are they going to teach them in the Roma-only classes? They are locked in there.”

Milan, a Romani father, has this message for the government: “Don’t harm these children, simply because they have a different skin colour.”

Earlier this week we met with government officials to talk about Amnesty International’s concerns and recommendations. We urged them to enforce a ban on discrimination and segregation that has been part of Slovak educational law since 2008 and stick to the commitment to end school segregation of Roma included in the new government coalition’s programme in August this year.
Unfortunately the answer was simple and vague and fell short of any satisfactory and meaningful answer to that end: “We stick to our commitment, but we have not yet had the time to come up with concrete measures”.

In our campaign together with other organizations and individuals we have a long way ahead of us before declarations become reality. We need to keep reminding the Slovak government that people in Slovakia and around the world say “No to discrimination – No to segregation.”

As messages arrive in our inboxes with images from Amnesty International public actions in front of Slovak embassies in Berlin, Brussels and Zagreb, we feel the strength of the movement and that our message is getting stronger and stronger: “Unlock their future – End school segregation of Roma”

Read more:
Call on the Prime Minister of Slovakia to end the segregation of Romani children in schools
(Take Action)
Take part in Amnesty International’s photo petition for Roma children in Slovakia
(Photo petition)
Slovak government urged to end segregation for Romani children
(News, 2 September 2010)

Posted in Children, International Organizations | 3 Comments

  1. Milan says:

    Have you ever been further in the east of Slovakia than 20km north of Bratislava? Have you ever been to Lunik IX in Kosice or villages in Spis county? Have you seen and documented the behaviour of Roma people there? If your answers were no then your campaining wil always be ineffective. Go there and try to live with Roma people for a couple of weeks and then try to come up with a better campaing or a solution. I am all for the end of segregation but the way you present this problem is far from unbiased. Please do your homework properly, plead then.

  2. Katarina says:

    Discrimination and segregation must be stopped. Thumps up to all those campaigning! keep up in your work!

  3. Luc says:

    The way you´re presenting the situation in Slovakia is totally unrealistic and biased. There is no segregation. When you call it that, people all around the world immediately picture U.S. in 60´s with separated school, buses. That´s segregation, that´s discrimination. Is it discrimination when these people have never work an hour in their life, have never had to paid a cent for anything, have never even tried to do something other than cry out and complain? Those kids are born to be “separated”…But it´s not fault of Slovak people or government, it´s their parents fault who are unresponsible , who don´t care to live responsible life of adult citizens. They don´t offer any role models for their children. It´s no surprise those kids don´t have any will to learn. You´re saying they can´t get education. That´s bullshit. If is it so, why are there kids – Roma kids who are successful?? Who finished their education, find a job and earn their living the same way as other people do. What makes them different from us – why did I have to get up every morning and go to school, while my parents worked 10 – 12 hours a day to earn 600 euros a month??? I finished school with straight As and nobody is offering me free apartment to live in, I had to find a job because I don´t get any state support because I had never worked. And Roma people? Roma man has never worked either. What makes him so different that he gets new apartment every other year simply because he damages it and state support higher than what my mother teacher of 30 years earns in a month? Who´s discriminated? Nobody will care If I loose my job and me and my kids end up on the street. No TV or AI won´t come and fight for me to get a free apartment or support me and my kids. Why do we have to be able and capable to live normal responsible life, and Roma people are just poor discriminated citizens. You´re the one calling for equality! Does this look equal to you? I simply have to manage- They are poor and discriminated. I should probably go back to school, right? Because those concepts you well educated people are presenting, my mind simply can not get around. Come and live with us in sunny eastern Slovakia for some time and then you´re free to judge. Until then, you have no idea what are you talking about. Or better yet, try and invite the great Roma families to live with you in your air-conditioned villas somewhere far from Slovakia.

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